Risk, resilience and social-ecological systems in natural resource-based development in South Africa.
Ecosystem services, which are dependent on ecological and socio-economic variables, can be viewed as having the potential to help alleviate poverty in rural South Africa. These variables do not act in isolation, but rather form a complex adaptive social-ecological system (SES) whereby the ecological and socio-economic aspects interact with each other at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Although ecosystem services frameworks have been developed which balance resource conservation and use according to how society values consumptive and non-consumptive ecosystem services, projects that have successfully achieved both conservation and economic objectives are relatively rare. Part of the reason for this has been attributed to the hiatus between theory and practice, where there is a dearth in decision support systems for guiding the use of ecosystem services as a means of poverty alleviation. Compounding the complexity of SESs in South Africa is the broad socio-political context (e.g. an immature democracy, new policies, new institutions, old legacies, new tenure arrangements, disease and poverty). Development in South Africa is evolving at a rapid rate, and with the potential for detrimental ecological and socio-economic impacts throughout the country if not controlled. The aim of this research is to integrate SES theory into natural resource management practice, so that the concepts of resilience, risk and ecosystem services assessment can be applied effectively in the understanding of natural resource-based enterprises. To achieve this aim, four contexts representing successive development of SES theory are examined, the objectives of which are as follows: i) Integrate ecosystems services evaluation and SES theory to derive a conceptual framework to identify and assess opportunities for natural resource-based economic empowerment at two estuary study sites in the Eastern Cape, South Africa; ii) Apply and adapt the resulting SES conceptual framework to enhance understanding of the resilience of a SES supporting a wetland-based craft enterprise in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; iii) Apply and adapt the resulting SES conceptual framework to an EIA setting to evaluate whether such a framework would constitute a useful tool in EIA practice; and iv) Apply and adapt the resulting SES conceptual framework to build understanding of key issues linked to the pellet bioenergy sector in South Africa. This study produced four papers each of which addresses one of the four objectives. For Objective 1, a conceptual ecosystem services framework, with a practical toolkit comprising an ecosystem services inventory and risk assessment, was developed. This work was based on estuarine ecosystem services as it was commissioned as part of the Eastern Cape Estuaries Management Programme. This toolkit was tested at two estuaries in the Eastern Cape (Umngazi and Tyolomnqa), South Africa. For Objective 2, the conceptual framework and associated toolkit developed in Paper 1 was applied and adapted to investigate the threats and opportunities associated with the commercialisation of a natural product-based enterprise (NRBE) located at Mbongolwane, 30km inland of Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. For Objective 3, the conceptual framework was adapted to develop a systematic framework for EIA practice, which supports and promotes public participation, and which encourages the description, understanding and investigation of the impacts of a proposed development on a receiving SES, in an integrated manner. The framework was applied to two developments: i) a community-based accommodation enterprise at Umngazi estuary; and ii) a proposed wine estate located in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. For Objective 4, the resulting conceptual framework was applied and adapted to the woody-biomass industry in South Africa. This industry pelletises wood waste for use as an alternative fuel to coal and gas, and is highly developed throughout the US and Europe. However all four woody-biomass plants which were established in South Africa closed within five years of having been commissioned. The toolkit developed to address objective 4 highlights the threats to establishing and operating a resilient resource-based enterprise which has the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation at a national scale, though job creation and power provision. This thesis is centred on the Anderies et al. (2004) framework for studying the robustness of SESs, and incorporates elements of the Ostrom (2007, 2009) and McGinnis and Ostrom (2014) framework for identifying the social-ecological variables that affect the resilience of a SES. The methods utilised in this study comprise literature reviews, initial development of conceptual frameworks and toolkits using the reviewed literature, the testing of these using stakeholder engagement for a variety of different scenarios, and finally their assessment using published literature and lessons learned through application. Social-ecological system theory was applied in this study to: i) identify potential resilient NRBEs (Paper 1); ii) assess the resilience of selected NRBEs with the view of providing strategies (mitigation measures) to increase the resilience of these enterprises (Papers 1, 2 and 4); iii) assess the resilience of natural resource-based enterprises which have previously been established, and failed (Papers 2 and 4); iv) assess the resilience of proposed natural resource-based enterprises which have not been previously established (Papers 3 and 1); v) assess the resilience of natural resource-based enterprises which are based on ecosystem services (i.e. which do not need to be altered prior to utilisation, are not physically infinite and are unquantifiable) (Papers 1 and 3); and vi) assess the resilience of natural resource-based enterprises which are based on a production process where an ecosystem 'good' is an input, which is processed to form an output which is sold for revenue (Papers 2 and 4). In summary, previous SES conceptual frameworks proved more applicable when used to identify potential natural resource-based enterprises, to assess a proposed enterprise which has yet to be established, and for an enterprise which is based on ecosystem services which do not need to be altered in order to be utilised. The theory proved to be less applicable for assessing an enterprise which has previously been established, and for an enterprise which processes an ecosystem good through a production process. As previous SES theory has focused on analysing the robustness or sustainability of SESs, and is not centred on enterprise dynamics, such as internal business interactions or a production process (as these are not specific to social-ecological interaction), the results are not unexpected. The resulting SES conceptual framework addresses both these shortcomings, as well as the incorporation of ecological component interactions which was also identified as a shortcoming of SES theory when applied to NRBEs. Thus, previous SES theory is more applicable when used at a broad, strategic, long-term level, than at a short-term, operational enterprise level, where internal business dynamics play more of a key role with resilience. Combining SES theory with the concepts of resilience, risk and ecosystem services has proven to be very appropriate for contributing towards natural resource management practices which help alleviate poverty. Furthermore, the study demonstrates how EIA practice could benefit from incorporating SES theory as a way of encouraging the EIA practitioner to co-create a conceptual model of the current and future social-ecological system. This probably constitutes the first attempt to apply and formalise SES constructs to EIA practice within a regulated procedure. Although this study has identified limitations with applying SES theory to assessing the SESs which surround natural resource-based enterprises, SES theory has provided a strong foundation for achieving resilient natural resource-based enterprises which will contribute toward poverty alleviation. This research furthers SES theory in the realm of NRBEs and provides the first ever theoretically-based methodology for selecting, assessing, evaluating and operating resilient NRBEs. The developed conceptual framework and practical contributions have the ability to not only help towards poverty alleviation, but proved applicable to sophisticated entrepreneurial activities for the more affluent. The contributions, both theoretical and practical take into consideration the complex nature of South African SESs, and are applicable to a variety of types and scales of NRBEs. The contributions strongly encourage stakeholder identification, consideration and engagement, and this emphasis contributes towards the balancing of both economic empowerment and sustainable resource use. Although not directly aimed at governmental decision-makers, the contributions show versatility as they have the potential to help inform and guide policy development at a strategic level. By applying SES theory to the development of a conceptual framework specifically for NRBEs, and through the development of practical applications based on the conceptual framework, this research has helped towards addressing the hiatus between theory and practice which has widely been documented.